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Cavs can’t hold Grassfield

By Matthew Hatfield

Special to the News-Herald

In their second season under coach Kevin Knight, the Lakeland Cavaliers have made significant strides, going from 3-9 in 2015 to a 5-2 start this year with a very realistic chance of opening at home in the first round of the playoffs.

One team that has been a thorn in Lakeland’s side is Grassfield, a perennial contender out of the Southeastern District and a postseason fixture in Group 6A.

The Cavs made the trip to Chesapeake and Grassfield High School on Friday night with an opportunity to bolster their own playoff seed, but miscues in the form of three interceptions and two lost fumbles kept them from doing so, and the Grizzlies walked away with a 36-20 victory.

Grassfield has now won nine of 10 head-to-head meetings all-time with Lakeland, seven of them by double digits.

“Regardless of who you play, you’re not winning games with five turnovers,” Knight said. “That’s definitely a season-high, and you can’t win games like that.” The coach was also disappointed that the Cavs had allowed the Grizzlies to rack up 391 total yards after shutting out Hickory 21-0 one week earlier.

“Defensively, you can’t give up big plays,” Knight said. “That’ll kill you every time. We just needed all three phases. Except for the punting game, it seemed like special teams was the only thing that came through for us tonight.”

Grassfield opened the game with a five-play, 50-yard scoring drive to take a 7-0 lead, but Lakeland quickly responded when Nashun Overton returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown. However, the extra point was no good and that kept the Cavs chasing points the rest of the evening.

The Cavs missed a 32-yard field goal in the second quarter, and Grassfield capitalized four plays later on a 65-yard touchdown run from Darius Hagans, who finished with 206 yards rushing.

“We’ve been searching for a kicker, and we brought in a new one in [Ryan] Wright,” Wright said. “We just haven’t been able to get our kicking game going.”

“Sometimes it can kill the momentum, especially when you make a big play and you’re trying to tie the game up on an extra point. It’s been like this all year, and it came back to bite us.”

Lakeland trailed 14-6 at intermission, but shortly after moving into Grassfield territory to begin the second half, a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown extended the deficit.

Overton’s 35-yard kickoff return gave them good field position with running back Damontre Milteer ripping off a 30-yard run that set up quarterback Tyquan Holloman’s touchdown sneak from a yard out. Their two-point conversion try would be unsuccessful.

Though the Grizzlies would miss a 37-yard field goal, they increased their lead to 29-12 on a 79-yard touchdown pass.

Following his 55-yard touchdown, Ricardo Ray’s two-point conversion run trimmed the Grassfield lead to nine points less than two minutes into the fourth quarter. Lakeland was unable to get any closer, though, as its passing game was limited to 36 yards on six completions and the Grizzlies controlled field position during the final period.

Holloman led the Lakeland running game with 99 yards on 13 attempts, while Milteer had 90 yards on the ground on 23 attempts. Defensively, Deandre Faulk was in on seven tackles, two for loss, while Tariq Rawlings and Deondre Little recorded interceptions.

Next for Lakeland is a trip to Indian River on Oct. 28, and then they close out the regular season at home against city rival Nansemond River on Nov. 4. Winning either or both would go a long way towards getting them a high seed for the 3A-East Region playoffs next month.

“Our goal all season was to first get in the playoffs and then get that home-field advantage,” Knight said. “We’re still fighting to do it and these next two will be very important for us to make that happen.”